6 Examples of When Not to be Frugal

Frugality gets a bad rap in some circles, and in a way, such criticism can be over the top.  There are people that simply think that it’s dumb to focus on saving at all, while one should simply aspire to bigger and better things with career or investments.  In other words, they say make money and enjoy it while you can.

Admittedly, I do like to save money.  Now, that’s no shock to those of you that visit here regularly.  After all, I’ve shared a story about how I’ve picked up pennies  on the ground below the window at drive-thrus, as well as a host of other tactics that can be seen as examples of extreme frugality.  Saving is fun.

Plus, let’s face it – we won’t have a chance to grow net worth if we don’t save.  It takes living within our means, and making sure our income exceeds our expenses, to allow this to happen of course.  Then we can take that difference, invest it, and improve our situation.  Bottom line is that saving money plays a big role in our financial success, and frugality can be a key part of it.

However, there really are times when we can’t be too focused on frugality.  While it has its place, we can’t be myopic and lose sight of the bigger picture.  Here are 6 times when we don’t need to be frugal:

When it Costs Money to Save Money

Sometimes, frugality addicts can go to great lengths to save a few dollars. Or, in some cases, pennies!  I have heard people suggest things such as driving 60 minutes round trip to visit a cheaper grocery store, or driving 20 minutes round trip to go to a gas station that sells gas for 8 cents less per gallon.  When you add up the cost in terms of gas, in order to drive to these places, it seems ludicrous to make those attempts to save.  Particularly for using gas to save money on gas!

When it Takes Time to Save Money

Clipping coupons can be a nice way to save money.  However, if we spend 30 minutes clipping coupons in order to save $4 at the grocery store, is it worth it? Would you want to spend your free time working at an $8 hourly rate? If so, maybe it would be worth it. But these are the types of calculations that make sense for us to make, determining the ROI on coupons, in order to see if we are truly spending our time wisely.

Food Choices

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of this one.  Did you see above, where I talked about plucking coins off the ground at the drive thru window, where people dropped them?  The drive thru isn’t exactly indicative of optimal nutrition :)  However, I’ve gotten much better with choices, and realize that it doesn’t help to buy cheap food just to save money.   Food that is healthy and cheap is a great choice, but unhealthy and cheap isn’t.  What we save up front we might pay back and then some in health care costs and lower quality of life later.

Necessary Health Care

Have you heard of people who avoid getting healthcare on purpose? By this, I mean people making a decent salary with decent benefits, but choosing not spend on insurance because they “never get sick”.  I have.  Plus, there are people who don’t want to make doctor visits due to copay costs and medical costs, despite the necessity of such things.  I get that some things aren’t truly necessary to do, but others actually are.  Don’t shortchange your quality of life to save a few dollars.

Maintenance and Repairs

This can take many forms, but the ones that jump out at me are home and car maintenance.  Like anything else, if we do the little things along the way, the long-term results will likely be better.  Delay the important expenses, or try to cut corners where we shouldn’t, and we could ulimately lose more money later.


I know that many will disagree, but I think it’s rewarding to be generous in spirit and action where feasible. Now, obviously we can’t do this at all times and for everyone. But being willing to shell out a few dollars here and there to be a good sport or truly help someone in need are both nice qualities and can be rewarding.  For example, if someone you know asks if you can buy girl scout cookies, how could it really hurt to buy one box? Again, can’t do it for everyone, but sometimes we can.

More importantly, there are people in need.  Not all needy people are lazy bums or moochers, some folks have truly experienced misfortune.  A few dollars to help on occasion won’t break the bank.  To each their own though, of course.

My Questions For You:

Which of these 6 instances of when not to be frugal resonates most with you?  How have you applied it in your life?

Are there any you disagree with?

Do you have any more to add?


  1. says

    Food choice is the one that resonates most with me. I’m the grocery shopper in our family, and I’m proud of keeping our food costs within a tight budget. But I’ve learned that, at some point, I can save too much on groceries at the expense of one’s health & well being. Classic example of penny wise, pound foolish. I’m buying more healthful food now, eating out less so that we can better control our diets, and I’ve lost weight and feel better! It’s worth the extra money…

    • Squirrelers says

      Kurt – isn’t that great, when you can get two wins like that? In the long run, eating healthy food will be better for us and likely save us money.

  2. says

    Absolutely your point about the time needed to clip coupons. I have tried this several times and cannot get over the amount of time it takes. I know I am spending more at the grocery store but at this point in my life, time is more valuable than saving a few extra dollars.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Squirrelers says

      Brian – yes, time is valuable. If we calculate the hourly rate of cutting coupons, it can often be eye opening how modest it can be. Not always, but sometimes for sure!

    • Grillmaster Joe says

      If you take the normal number of coupon inserts in the average Sunday paper, and if you limit what you cut out to those things that you actually use regularly, or new things from brands you like, it doesn’t take 30 minutes. I can get through two or three coupon inserts in 10-15 minutes, and I can save an average of $20 in coupons on a $100 grocery trip (and that’s not counting the “club card” discounts).

      • Squirrelers says

        Grillmaster Joe – Now, are the $20 in savings truly incremental? In other words, are they for items that you would buy normally anyway, or at least subsitutes? If so, then $20 savings for 15 minutes of work would be worth it for most people!

  3. says

    I would say cheap drives 10 miles to get cheaper gas, frugal knows better. That is when it makes sense to be frugal and just not cheap. I read about the extreme cheapskate guy who spent the whole day looking for spare change on the floor and put together $5 or so, instead of working one hour minimum wage and get the money.

  4. says

    “Don’t shortchange your quality of life to save a few dollars.” Couldn’t agree more. Being unhealthy is one of the most financially risky things you can do. So many people get in financial trouble because of medical bills.

    • Squirrelers says

      Mike – I agree, being healthy is so important over the long run – not just for quality of life but it impacts finances as well.

  5. says

    Agreed. If you are picking coins up at the drive-through, you are being neither frugal nor healthy. You will have wasted money killing yourself off early. I’m no mathematician, but those numbers don’t give me goosebumps.

    • Squirrelers says

      David – in my case, the coins being picked up were as a result of buying coffee (w/o any cream or sugar), so there wasn’t really food involved. And it was for fun:) But in general, I see your point, and definitely think that saving a few pennies on food at the expense of healthy is not a good move!

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